Innovating the Technical Recruiting Process at NextRoll

Project Elevate Wins AFT All-Stars Award

For people in the job market with technical-based skills and passions – like software and data engineers or product managers – the job search and interview process can be lengthy. It’s no wonder that places those roles on their Top 21 Most Competitive Jobs Right Now list.

On the flip side, technical interviewing is a huge undertaking for hiring managers who still have full-time jobs on top of finding new teammates. 

So how can NextRoll innovate this process as a company that values interviewees’ time AND hiring managers’ schedules?

This is the question that sparked Project Elevate, a joint effort between our Engineering and Recruiting teams to make an agile, adaptable, and unbiased Technical Interview process for incoming candidates and hiring managers alike.

“By adapting to the ever-changing recruiting world, we’ve enabled the NextRoll Engineering team to keep up and do it while trying to make sure our interview process is as unbiased as we can make it,” said David Aviles, Engineering Operations Lead.

David, along with Jessica Grist and Brian Ecker recently won an AFT All-Stars award – an internal NextRoll program that awards individuals or teams that have made significant contributions towards NextRoll's goals – for their efforts around Project Elevate. 

Keep reading to learn more about how this team embraced the theme of Agility and NextRoll’s Beaver Culture Creature, which represents doing more with less. 

Changing for the Better

Technical recruiting is very complex and, depending on the role, the specific skills someone must demonstrate to prove they have a solid foundational knowledge of the job can vary greatly. So the Project Elevate team knew working together to standardize interview panels and to spread the work out as evenly, when possible, amongst team members would ensure consistency across the organization. 

“Standardizing the interview process keeps the candidate quality high and the assessment benchmarks fair,” said Brian Ecker. “The team met with a diverse group of hiring managers – different teams, specialties, and disciplines – and gathered feedback and found consensus on the best metrics for candidate success.”

The standardization included creating a direct set of Guidelines for the hiring managers to follow. The list includes:

  • Clearly outlining skills that directly map to success in the role

  • Forming interview questions with clear pass/fail criteria

  • Ensuring interview questions directly map to the required skills

Also by getting more NextRoll Engineers involved in the interview process, the team found it not only spreads out the work and cuts down on workload across the team, but it also gets more people excited to be a part of the hiring process. 

“I'm most proud of how we've fostered a culture of interest, curiosity, and ownership around the interview process amongst all Engineers,” said Jessica Grist. “We constantly emphasize to the Engineering org that while Project Elevate works on process improvements, the job of technical interviewing belongs to every Engineer. Through delivering trainings on interview technique and unconscious bias, improving our documentation, facilitating new question drives where every engineer can participate, and so much more, we work to make technical interviewing more consistent, more approachable, and hopefully even a little fun.”

Tackling Unconscious Bias

Another key aspect of Project Elevate includes strategizing on how to reduce the room for unconscious bias in hiring decisions. Unconscious biases are stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. This can include race, age, gender, and others.

“It was meaningful to not only scale the pace and consistency of NextRoll's engineering hiring, but to make our interview process fair, uniform, and high-quality, so we can find the best candidates in this challenging hiring market,” said Brian Ecker.

To address this, these are also some items included on the standard Interview Guidelines list:

  • Ensuring the interview panel reflects a diverse panel of interviewers

  • Standardizing interview scorecards based on the skill and pass/fail criteria

  • Training all interviewers in interview best practices and unconscious bias

Iterating on and Expanding the Program at NextRoll

Project Elevate is not a one-and-done project. What makes it consistently successful is the team’s dedication to reevaluating the process every quarter to ensure it’s still working and that the interview questions are still applicable. 

“What's kept our momentum going throughout the years we've been working on this project is the knowledge that agile, iterative improvement truly makes an enormous difference,” said Jessica Grist. “More times than I can count, we've looked at a process, including ones that we ourselves implemented, asked ‘what isn't working about this’ and retooled our approach. We've had to constantly reexamine our assumptions, intuitions, and long-term practices to meet our goals – and I can't think of a better definition of agility than that.”

Project Elevate has proven effective for the Engineering team, and it’s also a huge success because of its adaptability. Because of their work, the Project Elevate team created a system that is being replicated across NextRoll and is helping other teams that face similar recruiting challenges.

“I'm most excited about how other organizations in the company use our work as an inspiration for interviewing revamp projects of their own,” said Jessica Grist. “Using Project Elevate's experiences to inform their efforts means that they'll be able to take advantage of our knowledge base and avoid the pitfalls of starting from scratch. I'm also just truly inspired and gratified that other folks want to take up this work. It's not easy, and it's not quick, but every bit of time we invest in hiring great people pays us back in the end.”

It’s clear that Project Elevate is already making a huge impact across NextRoll – not only for the people currently making NextRoll the high-growth company it is today but for the future Rollers who will make impacts within the company in the future. 

If you’re one of those people ready to join our team, we’re hiring! Head over to the NextRoll Job Board to see if there’s an open role that fits in your future.